Yes, I’d call it a masterpiece: brilliantly conceived and executed.
If you’re a would-be reader, I’d highly recommend starting with an hour-long podcast about this novel on the Slate’s Audio Book Club.
When the podcast starts, you’ll hear the critics encourage you to read the book first.
I think this is the exact wrong advice. Listen to this podcast first and you’ll get a better idea of the whole arc of the book and you’ll hear some interesting insights about the themes, imagery and underlying concepts. This will help you get your bearings. I wish I had listened to it first.
“Cloud Atlas” requires an investment of your time and mental energy. The payoff is worth it. The variety of styles and stories is impressive, the language, of course, is stunning. Beyond that, I doubt I can add anything to the discussion that hasn’t already been said.
If you had any feelings of unimportance in the sweep of history, “Cloud Atlas” will give you a lift.
By the way, I listened to this book on Audio CD and later bought a copy to just see how the words looked on the page. The performances by Scott Brick, Cassandra Campbell, Kim Mai Guest, Kirby Heyborne, John Lee and Richard Matthews were brilliant.
I still can’t decide whether to see the movie, but “Cloud Atlas” is a treasure. I predict it will be read for centuries to come–and that no other writer will dare to mimic its construction.